Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh my!

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Once upon a time, my fiancé and I were living in North Fitzroy; and we were married by Paul Turton at the North Carlton Baptist Church. We stood before the congregation, and made our promises, and were declared a wedded couple. Straightaway, I met a surprising number of interesting, intelligent, and attractive men. I began wondering if my own interesting, intelligent, and attractive man was really the best option, or whether I had made a colossal mistake; and I found myself wrestling with demons of pride, and doubt, and desire.  Continue reading “Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh my!”

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Women’s Work: Ministry or Service?

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I wonder what Simon’s mother-in-law prepared for Jesus and his disciples. Pita bread and hommous? Rice wrapped in vine leaves? Dried figs, almonds, and a soft mound of goats’ cheese? When Jesus visits Simon’s house, Simon’s mother-in-law is sick in bed. But although it’s the Sabbath, and although she’s a woman, and although she’s sick, Jesus touches her. She is healed; she gets out of bed; and she begins to serve them: and in the Middle East, that always means food.  Continue reading “Women’s Work: Ministry or Service?”

People of All Ages Doing Faith Together

I visited our sister church, South Yarra Community Baptist, on Sunday, and told them all about us. If you’re curious, this is what I said:

To paraphrase the great missionary, the Apostle Paul, “I greet you as God’s own children, and wish you all the best.” When I moved to Warrnambool last year, a good friend of mine described it as my own great missionary journey. So tonight I will channel the energies of the missionaries who spoke at churches in my childhood, and bring stories of more of God’s children, and a slideshow. My name is Alison, I’m your church-planting pastor, and I am very grateful for the administrative, liturgical, prayerful, and other support that South Yarra provides. I’m here in Melbourne this week because I’m doing an intensive on the spiritual life of children. Basically, I’m checking if I’m doing things right, because the congregation I now serve is two-thirds kids. As you can imagine, the service—and my work—have a very different energy to South Yarra. And yet, if you were to visit, things would probably feel strangely familiar.  Continue reading “People of All Ages Doing Faith Together”

The Billionaire, the Stockbroker, and the Storyteller

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Parables are like puzzle boxes. There are no easy answers, no straight readings. You can take a parable in several directions: how you interpret it depends on your faith community, your social location, your Biblical knowledge, your image of God, a good dose of the Holy Spirit, and—let’s be honest!—your mood. Now, most people have heard spiritual interpretations of the parable of the talents. In such a reading, those Christians who don’t use their money, time, gifts, and abilities to advance the kingdom of heaven will face God’s anger and judgement. But it’s interesting that nothing in the story says that the angry boss is God. So let’s swap the lens from spiritual to economic, and assume that Jesus meant the talents literally. A talent was a colossal unit of money, over a million dollars today: how might knowing this affect the reading? Listen as I riff on the story, and re-tell it in a modern context. Perhaps it will lead to a different place. And if it does, then, like all good parables, where you go from that place is up to you. So make yourself comfortable: it’s time for a story.  Continue reading “The Billionaire, the Stockbroker, and the Storyteller”

It’s You!

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A person knocks on a door. A voice calls from within, “Who is it?” The person says, “It’s your servant.” The voice says, “There’s no one here.”

The person goes away, wandering and wondering, working and thinking and talking and praying and sleeping and playing and dreaming, as you do. A year goes by, and they return. They knock at the door. A voice calls from within, “Who is it?” The person says, “It’s your sibling.” The voice says, “There’s no one here.”

The person goes away, wandering and wondering, working and thinking and talking and praying and sleeping and playing and dreaming, as you do. A year goes by, and they return. They knock at the door. A voice calls from within, “Who is it?” The person says, “It’s You.” The door swings open.

What if we have already been given every spiritual resource we need? What if we can be so transformed by Christ that, when he looks into our eyes, he sees himself? What if it is up to each of us to open the door?  Continue reading “It’s You!”

And They Doubted…

They doubted.

Three days after Jesus was executed and put in the ground, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary met the living risen Christ, and brought the Word to all the followers of Jesus: he will meet you in Galilee. So they went to Galilee. And there they saw Jesus! He came to them, and spoke with them, and they worshipped him.

And they doubted. Continue reading “And They Doubted…”

Wounded and Scarred – and Here!

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Some of you might remember a television program called ‘Yes, Minister!’, which took a satirical look at how government really worked. In one episode, a new hospital was awarded an efficiency prize. It was later discovered to have 500 administrators—and no patients! I was thinking about churches and Christian communities when I remembered this episode, for it is impossible to be seriously involved in a church or Christian community without coming up against the hassle of sick and wounded people. Continue reading “Wounded and Scarred – and Here!”

Our Fundamental Task: Forgiveness

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Last week, we heard about two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and how they encountered Christ. Through gathering, confession, Word, and Table, they came to recognise the Risen Lord in a stranger; and when this happened, they were so excited that they rushed off to tell everyone about it. This story is so foundational to our faith that, for over two thousand years, Jesus’ disciples have largely followed the pattern of gathering, confession, Word, and Table whenever they meet: and it is this pattern that we follow in our own worship service. We do this because we trust that when we engage in these practices, somehow, somewhere, we will catch a glimpse of Christ and be oriented back to God, an orientation we are to carry into the rest of the week. So that’s why we meet the way we do. But what of the rest of the week? What are we to do then? Continue reading “Our Fundamental Task: Forgiveness”

Life on the Road

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The disciples are despairing. They are scattered and confused. For they have witnessed the death of their great hope, their teacher, their friend. And in tonight’s story, we hear that two have decided to walk away from the scene of violence, away from Jerusalem, away from the body of Jesus. As they walk, they talk. Jesus comes alongside them. They don’t recognise him. But something in the man leads them to tell him about their discouragement, and the dashing of their hopes. They had been following a man they thought would overthrow the oppressors and restore Israel. Instead, he was crucified, and Israel remains under Roman control. Continue reading “Life on the Road”

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